21G.221 | Spring 2019 | Undergraduate

Communicating in American Culture(s)

Topics to Guide Reading and Discussion

How Do You Define Your Cultural Self?

Study the materials and be prepared to contribute in an informed discussion of the following topics and questions:

  1. Watch Pico Iyer’s “Where is home”?
    • What does Pico Iyer claim about his home? Do you believe him?
    • How do you define home? Where do you feel most at home?
  2. Compare Iyer’s audience for his TED talk with Boroditsky’s conference audience.
    • How does each speaker meet the audience needs within the respective contextual constraints?
  3. What are “thick” and “thin” cultures? How can we use these terms to describe mainstream American cultures? MIT cultures? Gendered cultures?
  4. Annie Dillard describes how she found her life’s passion as a child. What features of her family life strike you?
    • How do the Dillard family dynamics compare and contrast to those of your family? What features account for any differences?
  5. As you read Stewart & Bennett on friendship, consider the following questions:
    • What is your definition of a “friend”? What particular features characterize your relationship with your friends?
    • How do typical American friendships reflect American culture, according to Stewart & Bennett? Does your experience with American MIT students confirm or refute their characterization?

Oral Response #1: Choose either questions #4 or #5 and prepare to present your response in a well-organized two-minute presentation. I will videotape these nanopresentations and send each of you a private link so you to watch and complete a self-assessment.

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2019